I haven’t made art for myself since college.
For one, I just don’t have the time. For two, I’m not blessed with a beautiful, spacious studio space. Or any studio space for that matter. Remember the studios in college? *Sigh* Now the only time I make art is when I’m making samples for my lessons. Pretty sure that paper lizard I made the other day isn’t going to end up in a gallery any time soon.
I spend a lot of my own money. A lot.
I don’t think a weekend goes by when I’m not at a store picking something up for my classroom. I don’t think a week goes by when I’m not scrounging through my personal supplies, or recycling bin, for materials to use in my classroom. Regular classroom teachers spend a good amount of their own money on their students and their classrooms. I guarantee art teachers spend a lot more. I spend so much of my own money that I have a separate category for it when I track my expenses every month. I don’t get reimbursed for it. That $250 educator’s tax credit I get to claim? Maybe that will cover a quarter of what I spend every year.
I don’t like teaching every medium.
Especially painting. And printmaking. And don’t even get me started on chalk pastels. It has nothing to do with the mess. Okay, maybe it has a little to do with the mess, but I could teach ceramics all day long. Or sculpture. I’ve never had much interest in painting, not that I can’t do it, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I actually enjoy printmaking, but not the stuff we do in elementary school. Give me acid baths and etching any day. If I could equip my students with glue guns, packaging tape and box cutters, we’d be building cardboard structures every day. But Styrofoam prints and dry brush techniques? Ugh, no thanks. Yeah, I still teach it, but I’d prefer not to.
Teaching art isn’t fun.
There. I said it, now can you please stop asking me that? It’s not fun. Most of the time it is not fun. Sometimes it is fun. Mostly it is not fun. What with all the grading and the push for assessments and the CLT meetings and the professional development and the classes with 30+ students and the IEPs and the 504s and the parent emails and the SOLs and the PLCs and the lack of planning time and the extra duties and the SMARTR goals and the shrinking budgets and the teacher evaluations and the staff meetings and the need to be visible and the preparation for art shows and art displays and the behavior plans and the PBIS rewards and the pressure to make art fun. What? You didn’t think art teachers had to deal with this shit too? We do.
Sometimes I daydream about teaching high school art.
Once upon a time, about ten years ago, I taught high school art for about 1.25 years. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that. I don’t know if high school art teachers have to worry about SMARTR goals, or CLT meetings, or giving up their planning time to help out in the real classrooms during math, but I do know that at least I wouldn’t have to teach someone how to use scissors, or glue sticks or crayons anymore. I wouldn’t have to tie shoes or wipe noses or remind students to wash their hands after using the bathroom. I wouldn’t have to answer the question, “how much longer is art?” seventeen times in an hour. I’m not naive enough to think that all of my students in high school would actually want to be in art class, but at least there would be some who did right? At least there would be some who thought for themselves and didn’t actually copy my sample line for line, right? I don’t know. Are you a high school art teacher? Do you get to collaborate with students and actually have intelligent discussions with them? Do you get to watch students’ creativity develop and grow into unique points of view? Is it as glorious as we elementary art teachers imagine it to be? On second thought, don’t answer that.
I show up for the students.
The relationships I build with my students gets me out of bed every morning when that alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. I’m not in it for the fun of it. I’m not in it for the fame and fortune (because we all know that’s never going to happen). I don’t show up every day because I enjoy being micromanaged by the administration. I show up for the students who hug me on the way out of class. I show up for the students who tell me they love art class. I show up for the students who express excitement and pride when they’ve “drawn the best picture they’ve ever drawn!” And yeah, I show up for the students who can’t sit still in their seats, can’t refrain from blurting out, and who would rather be anywhere else but art class. I show up because sometimes teaching art is fun. I show up for the students. And that is the only reason I need.